Cleaning Out Between Kids

Cleaning out between kidsWhen you have your first baby, you buy and receive way more stuff than you’ll ever need. If you’re planning on having another, or even three or more, you may feel the need to hang on to that stuff, and even buy more stuff ”just in case.”

In my case, it meant extra junk sitting at the top of the baby room closet for a few years. After I had my second, I dreaded the point at which I would have to make decisions about what to keep for the next baby and what to toss. It can be a really hard process, and one that you should not attempt if you are feeling emotional or depressed. Attack this job at a time when it will make you feel good and accomplished to clean out this stuff.

We had three lovely daughters, so I can share with you the de-cluttering steps I took, and what I found helpful, and what I ended up throwing out anyway.

  • Clothes. For me, clothes were the hardest to sort through. Everything had memories attached to it, and it’s all so cute. But I did learn that no matter the memories, everything is not worth saving. Since we had three girls, we had a TON of clothes, and if I kept everything I would have way too much, so I gave myself some rules to help me make the hard choices. I limited keepsake clothes to:
    • Items that were boutique/handmade. These things are usually better quality and have a chance of making it intact to the next generation.
    • One item (whether it was Target/Old Navy/whatever) that reminded me of each daughter.
    • Special items (Sunday dresses, holiday items, outfit they came home from the hospital in, etc) that had been worn by all three girls.
    • Socks and shoes. Baby shoes are so wee and cute, they are impossible to get rid of. I did go through my baby sock drawer and throw away every orphan, and I saved out each baby’s first pair of shoes, bought matching organza ribbon and used it to hang them on the Christmas tree. It was as close as I could get to throwing them out.
  • Blankies. I did throw out/give away blankies that had stains or holes, but the rest I kept. These little blankets have so many uses even after the kids don’t use them.
  • Toys. I learned after baby number one that most baby toys are totally useless. Newborns just want to nurse and sleep. And when they are old enough to sit and play with something, your keys, a wooden spoon or their sibling is just as entertaining as some plastic thing. I did keep a first stuffed toy for each girl, but got rid of all the plastic stuff that wouldn’t last, and anything broken. Also be sure and look over the toy recall list in between kids in case something new has been found to be dangerous that you didn’t know about before.
  • Check your car seat. Car seats do expire, and no, it’s not a marketing gimmick. Plastic is constantly heated and cooled during the course of a year or more in the car, and changing temperatures weaken the integrity of the plastic. Every car seat will have an expiration year molded on it. Check your seat, and if it’s expired or recalled, cut the straps and check your local baby store to see if you can get a discount on a new seat for bringing in the old one.
  • Baby contraptions. I got suckered into a lot of these that I never used, among them baby washcloths, the strainer thing to put fruit in so your baby can gnaw on it, baby bathtub (not as convenient when you have to take it out for your toddler to take a bath afterwards) the Bumbo seat, playgym, and more. Your list will vary, but really look at the stuff you have and consider if you would miss it. It can make a big difference when you need more room.
  • Cloth diapers. I found new baby time was a great time to re-evaluate my stash, get rid of any diapers that had saggy elastic, and buy some perky new covers with some fresh prints. Now you also have more doublers–bonus!

White items or anything with a stain will just get worse over time, so don’t save light-colored items that aren’t in great condition. Plus, you’re going to get a ton of new stuff from other people, so anything you save that looks haggard probably won’t get worn anyway.

If you know someone who can use those clothes right now, give them away–you may not know anyone with a baby when you have a toddler and a preschooler. I loved knowing someone was getting use out of my girls’ clothes. And if you don’t have any friends who can use them, check your local crisis pregnancy center, women’s shelter, church or just take them to a thrift store. You can also try consignment boutiques, but I found most of them aren’t worth the trip unless you have designer items that are in new condition.

The biggest thing to remember is that you don’t have to keep everything—not even if it fits someone or could possibly fit someone in the future! More clothes equals more laundry because you can put off laundry longer. Remember: It’s OK to throw away.

Erin Hayes Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three girls who is up to her eyeballs in adorable girls’ clothes that currently fit none of her children. She lives and writes in Queensbury, New York.

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